A celebrated Melbourne stay reopens as ‘the world’s premier dessert hotel’. Serena Renner gives it a taste test
The scent of vanilla icing lies thick over the lobby. There are no cupcakes in sight, but an oversized glass jar magnifies its contents of Minties, jelly beans and little bags of fairy floss.
“Hey, I haven’t seen this stuff since I was a kid,” says my mate Robbie, reaching for a packet of Wizz Fizz. In an instant, two adults become kids at a lolly shop, except our cashier counter is the reception desk of Melbourne’s renovated Adelphi Hotel.
After it was forced to close last year due to financial difficulties, the 34-room boutique property, one block from Cumulus Inc. on trendy Flinders Lane, reopened in November with new owners, a cream-and-dark-chocolate look devised by local design firm Hachem and the promise of sweet surprises.
The hotel’s website calls the place “the world’s premier dessert hotel” and describes swinging couches, pillow fragrances and a new restaurant that whips up dessert-themed cocktails. It sounds like a decadent dream. Or maybe a recipe for a massive headache.
After checking into a king suite – outfitted with mid-century-style furnishings, steel surfaces, velvety pillows and a black-and-white carpet reminiscent of licorice allsorts – I opt for a pre-dinner dip in the ninth-floor pool.
The rooftop deck may soon feature a bar and barbecue, but the famous cantilevered swimming pool will always be the highlight: two metres of it jut out over Flinders Lane, with glass walls that look down on passing cars and pedestrians, inducing vertigo in swimmers.
In the spirit of sweetness, two friends join us at the hotel’s new restaurant – ostensibly a dessert bar, though it serves dinner – called Om Nom. It’s 7:30pm, and the place is noticeably empty considering its location and head-chef Christy Tania, who’s worked with such greats as Alain Ducasse. We flag down our waitress and enquire about the ‘liquid desserts’: cake- and pie-inspired concoctions spiked with liquor.
She tactfully suggests the hotel’s versions of martini and daiquiri cocktails are more popular. Maybe the dessert concept hasn’t caught on? I opt for a Margaret River sauvignon blanc to pair with shared starters of Wagyu sliders, caramelised scallops, an antipasto sampler and Japanese buckwheat noodles.
The antipasto, with its kalamata olive madeleines and a melon-and-prosciutto gelato, is the star of the savoury courses. Truthfully though, none of the dishes is outstanding. But we didn’t really come for the savoury stuff.
Neither did Om Nom, a fact which becomes even more apparent with the arrival of our desserts: chocolate soufflé, lemon meringue pie cocktail and a dish called ‘Basil Garden’. Each plate reveals painstaking attention to detail, especially the Garden, in which scoops of vanilla, olive oil and honey ice-cream are carefully encased in a chocolate-shell ‘pot’, topped with basil gelatine and edible flowers, and sprinkled with cocoa ‘soil’. It tastes as good as it looks.
Sitting beneath the reflective copper ceiling at the end of our meal, I start to feel like a blob of nougat inside a candy wrapper. Thank goodness my room is just upstairs. I say goodnight to my friends, waddle up a few floors and collapse on the plush bed, only to find a caramel-coloured macaron taunting me from the nightstand. I can’t resist. I eat half then crawl under the covers, which are fluffy like whipped cream.
I only have myself to blame. I came for indulgence, and the new Adelphi served it with a cherry on top.
The verdict: A unique hotel building gets the design update and creative concept it deserves. But the dessert bar, while tantalising, doesn’t stand up to dinner at nearby restaurants such as Cumulus Inc., Chin Chin and Ezard. Instead, go for the last course of the night.
The score: 15/20; great
We rated: The design – it’s playful without being gimmicky. Complimentary extras – such as a drink at the restaurant, house-made fairy floss and macarons – are irresistible. Herb-infused bath products by Appelles wash away the sugar hangover.
We hated: Om Nom’s waitstaff will need a little more enthusiasm if they’re going to convince Melburnians to eat dessert for dinner.
Where: 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Notes: Rooms from $270 include wi-fi, local phone calls, mini-bar snacks and refreshments, as well as a welcome drink at Om Nom.
Contact: 03 8080 8888; adelphi.com.au